Looks Like Two Entry Power7 Systems Are On The Way
April 26, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
I had been hoping, like many of you, that IBM had kept some of its Power7 server powder dry for the COMMON user group meeting in Orlando, Florida, next week. Perhaps divulging its plans for an entry Power Systems machine to succeed the current Power 520–I have been calling it the Power 720–and to maybe get back into the fight against entry X64 iron machines with a truly entry server–what I am calling the Power 710.
Well, it doesn’t look like this is going to happen. As far as I know, there are no additional Power Systems announcements coming at COMMON, and IBM has already let the cat out of the bag about the i For Business 7.1 operating system stack. If I had to guess, and you often do when talking about IBM, I think the bulk of the Power7 announcements were supposed to be timed with i 7.1, and they were all expected some time in May, during the show. But IBM shifted things earlier for competitive reasons, with Intel and Advanced Micro Devices making a slew of server chip announcements in March. IBM pulled in the relatively low volume Power 750, 770, and 780 machines to February, and the similarly relatively low volume PS700, PS701, and PS702 blades were moved to an April launch. But, alas, notice how they don’t ship until June 4?
The question everyone has now is: What is Big Blue up to as it rounds out the Power Systems lineup? IBM’s Redbook Residency programs, oddly enough, gives a clue. Check this page out. You will see that IBM is trying to be clever here.
That page lists three residencies where IBM is looking for volunteers to help write up technical overviews of three servers that it says are planned for 2010. These machines include residencies for the Power 595, the Power 520, and the Power 510.
Now, we all know that those machines have existed for years. The 595 and 520 machines came in iSeries and pSeries versions, then System i and System p versions, and then in merged Power System versions. And the AS/400 510 series dates from the mid-1990s when the first Power-based midrange boxes were created by Big Blue, and the 510 name was resurrected with the Power5 and Power5+ machines a decade later as entry 2U rack servers. If you believe that IBM wants people to hang out in Austin, Texas, for three weeks to write technical docs about machines that have already long-since shipped, then I got a bridge right down the street from me linking Brooklyn to Manhattan I want to sell to you. And the fact that IBM is asking that those wanting to participate in the residencies for these three machines need to speak “English, American, or Texan” is not only an accurate way to delineate accents, vocabulary, and idiom, but also another clue that you have to read between the lines as to what IBM is really looking for.
I think that those 595, 520, and 510 names are placeholders for the future Power Systems 795, 720, and 710 servers.
We already have a pretty good idea what the Power 795 will look like: 256 cores, 1,024 threads, and probably something on the order of 8 TB of main memory and maybe 800,000 CPWs of aggregate OS/400 OLTP computing power. The Power 720 should be something on the order of a half of a Power 750, which means a machine with two processor cards per machine, each equipped with one Power7 chip with maybe four and six cores per chip activated; such a machine might have a maximum main memory of 256 GB, and clock speeds on the Power7 cores as low as 2.5 GHz, delivering something around 4,400 CPWs per core. And I think a Power 710 would be half that: one processor socket and 128 GB of memory.
The Redbook Residencies may be loosely or tightly coupled to the actual launched schedule and to each other. What I can tell you is all three of the residencies end on the same day, August 6. IBM doesn’t like to announce servers in July, and early June is usually the latest it will go in the second quarter. (The June 21, 1988, launch of the AS/400 was very unusual, being too close to the summer silly season.) I can also tell you that Mark Loughridge, IBM’s chief financial officer, confirmed in going over the company’s first quarter financial results (which you can see elsewhere in this issue of The Four Hundred) that the high-end Power7-based server, whatever it is called, was not coming until the second half of 2010. So that rules out a June or July announcement. So, if I had to guess, I would not jump to conclusions and guess August, since IBM doesn’t like to do an August announcement because all of Europe goes on holiday that month.
Based on these Redbook Residencies and what Loughridge said, I would guess the Power 710, 720, and 795 are coming all together in late August or September for deliveries maybe in September or October. Of course, all schedules are subject to change because of competitive pressures and with the availability of low-end Power7 chips.